Governor John Bel Edwards has made changes to a program that gives manufactures significant tax exemptions. His executive order lets local governing bodies have a say in how the exemptions are handed out, and requires companies applying to show they are creating or retaining jobs.
Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson says,
“When industry is moving into a parish, utilizing the roads, the schools, the water and putting a demand in that parish, it seemed more appropriate for that parish to have a voice.”
Pierson says before the executive order there was no requirement for a company to make a commitment to jobs or investment. He says all the company had to do was prove to be a manufacturer to receive the industrial tax exemption.
“This closes that detail element and requires that the company say we’re going to create X number of net new jobs, we’re going to make this kind of investment, this is what we’re bringing to the table.”
Pierson says LED wants to make sure we’re attracting manufacturing companies that are good for the economy, local governments and communities. He says 38 other states give local oversight on the local exemption process.
“Now, perhaps Ascension Parish is in competition with St. James Parish. All the opportunity that’s there remains there, it’s simply we’ve added to the players at the table.”
The Supreme Court struck down a Texas abortion law today, which could mean a similar Louisiana law is coming off the books as well. The law required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals, and Louisiana has similar legislation. Loyola law professor Dane Ciolino says the ramifications of this ruling could reach into our state.
“What the court will do is enter what it calls a GVR order, in which it will grant and vacate this circuit’s current ruling, and then remand, send the case back to the Fifth Circuit to consider it in light of today’s opinion,” Ciolino said.
The Louisiana law was blocked by a federal judge, but in February the Fifth Circuit granted a request by Attorney General Jeff Landry to overrule the lower court and allow the law to take effect. Landry issued a statement saying his office will review the implications of today’s Supreme Court’s ruling on Louisiana’s law, but will continue to fight Louisiana’s case to protect women’s health. Ciolino says the justices ruled the law violates the Constitution.
“What it says is that Texas’ restrictions on abortion impose an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose whether to carry her pregnancy to term,” Ciolino said.
Landry’s statement also says “our law is both factually and legally different from the Texas law.” But Ciolino says Louisiana’s law is at least as restrictive as the one in our neighboring state.
“The Fifth Circuit is not going to have very man options, given that Louisiana’s law is at least as restrictive, and properly reviewed even more restrictive, than the Texas law,” Ciolino said.
Governor John Bel Edwards has been elected as the chair of the Southern Regional Education Board. Edwards says he’s looking forward to strengthening the learning and preparedness of students in all member states. Edwards’ Communication Director Richard Carbo says the governor is passionate about education and has been since he first started out in the legislature.
“This just gives him the opportunity to further implement and new initiatives to promote K-12 education and opportunities to give students the resources they need to succeed.”
Carbo says we’re seeing schools around the region from K-12 to higher education having to do more with a lot less support from the state. He says the governor’s goal is to reinvest in education.
“He’s fought for more funding for education and fought for teachers and students and it’s something he’s really excited about.”
Carbo says K-12 education is being cut in Louisiana for the first time in a generation. He says this new position will give Governor Edwards an audience and a platform to look for new ideas to improve education throughout the 16 state region.
“That’s the biggest advantage about SREB, is you have an opportunity to hear what other states are doing and maybe bringing them back to Louisiana and as the leader of that he’s actually really excited about it.”
A fatal crash took the life of a one-year-old in St. Landry parish. Master Trooper Brooks David with Louisiana State Police says 24-year-old Bendel Williams was driving down Highway 182 Sunday when he ran off the road. David says one-year-old Jamaika Johnson was not properly restrained in the back seat.
“The one-year-old child was injured and transported to the hospital, and unfortunately due to the injuries sustained, that child died while at the hospital,” David said.
Investigators believe Williams is dating the child’s mother. David says they are not sure what caused the driver to veer off the road, but the investigation is ongoing while Williams recovers from his injuries.
“Mr. Williams was transported to the hospital also with moderate injuries. Toxicology results are pending for that crash,” David said.
David says charges are pending. He says children need to be properly restrained at all times when riding in a vehicle, and parents can come by troop stations throughout the state to make sure their car seats are installed correctly.
“Nine times out of ten when parents come here, we notice that that child seat is improperly installed, and we can show you how to install that car seat properly,” David said.
Plans are in the works for Shreveport-Bossier to get a new bridge over the Red River, and Monroe residents are asking when will the state pay for a new bridge over the Ouachita River, as there’s been talk of a new bridge in that area for decades. Ouachita parish police juror Walt Caldwell says a new bridge in Monroe would cost around $300 million, and there isn’t enough money in the state capital outlay budget to cover the cost.
“They only have a little over $300 million available. So a project like what we’re talking about would completely wipe out the state’s capital outlay budget,” Caldwell said.
The cost for the new Shreveport bridge is projected between $80 and $100 million. Caldwell says the Monroe project would require a lot of federal funding, and that money doesn’t appear to be available either.
“The cost of the project precludes the state being able to fund it. You’re going to have to get the federal government to fund it. In my tenure in office, I’ve seen federal funding dwindle dramatically,” Caldwell said.
West Monroe Senator Mike Walsworth says there were renovations on the Lea Joyner Bridge over the Ouachita River in 2013. He says Monroe-West Monroe already has three bridges essentially within two miles of each other.
“We spent a lot of money on Lea Joyner Bridge. We’ve got three bridges going over the Ouachita River for a population of about 175,000,” Walsworth said.
Two special sessions later, Louisiana’s budget is still not in good shape. Barry Erwin with the Council for a Better Louisiana says he’s optimistic that in the 2017 fiscal session lawmakers can start looking at long term budget reform. He says otherwise they will still be dealing with midyear cuts.
“A lot of the taxes they passed both last year and in the first special session are all temporary. They’re all going to be falling off the books in 2018. So they set themselves another fiscal cliff,” Erwin said.
Erwin says he hopes lawmakers will be able to work towards this reform across party lines because it’s something both Democrats and Republicans recognize the state needs. He says the question still remains if they will agree to work together.
“The types of reform that we’re talking about are things that we’ve seen before, where you lower sales taxes and make our sales tax base and situation much better than it is and make some adjustments on income taxes that may raise some revenue,” Erwin said.
Erwin says the reform options that are out there are pretty much the same as what they looked at in the special sessions. But he says with next year’s fiscal session, lawmakers will have more time to get the job done.
“We were trying to cram, to some degree, some fiscal reform within three week special sessions, when the other part of the job was to raise enough money to make the budget balanced,” Erwin said.
Attorney General Jeff Landry says his office is looking into the case of the Baton Rouge mother who was arrested for whipping her children with an electrical cord after they were caught robbing a neighbor’s house. Landry says he wants to make sure the investigation is handled properly.
“I want to make sure that we get all of the facts. There could potentially be liability for the state if we don’t handle this correctly, and I think that overall this is something that concerns me,” Landry said.
Schaquana Spears is facing two counts of child cruelty for disciplining her children, and Landry is concerned the department of children and family services will take her children away. He says he is thankful his mother did not spare the rod to teach him a valuable lesson.
“We’ve painted ourselves in very rigid boxes and not allowed people to have particular discretion. I can tell you that I remember as a young child getting a pretty good whipping from my parents,” Landry said.
The Department of Children and Family Services issued a statement saying discipline is a healthy part of parenting, but it crosses into abuse when it leaves cuts or bruises on the child.
Louisiana’s major goal of stopping wetland erosion and rebuilding the coast has come to a halt. Director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Gulf Restoration Program David Muth says that’s because sea levels are expected to rise higher than previously predicted. But he says that doesn’t mean they’ll stop trying to solve coastal land loss.
“So what we’re talking about here is the difference between no action and action. That difference can be profound and it’s time for us to get moving.”
Muth says the state is using funding from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to build barrier islands, marshes and dredging to limit coastal land loss. He says the most important step is for Louisiana to use sediment from the Mississippi River to build up the marshes.
“We expect that they will formally begin the process of getting permits and designing and building major sediment diversions on the Mississippi River below New Orleans very soon.”
Muth says he’s not surprised that the prediction of reversing coastal land loss in a few decades isn’t possible anymore. But he is optimistic they can reduce the amount of land Louisiana loses every year and that’s through sediment diversions.
“But we also have a tool that nobody else has, which is a river full of sediment that we’re not doing anything with. Unlike many, many coastal communities and ecosystems, we have a way out.”
The second special session is over, but ULM political science professor John Sutherlin says Governor John Bel Edwards won’t be taking a breather anytime soon.
“He still has a huge task to go. Come July 1, Governor Edwards is going to have to start looking around at what to cut,” Sutherlin said.
The governor will have to make at least $300 million in cuts to the state budget for next fiscal year. Sutherlin says Edwards will be involved in trying to bolster the state’s ports, roads and bridges, while also working on some job creation projects.
“I would expect to see more infrastructure projects and less of those sort of flashy ribbon cutting ceremonies that we saw under Jindal,” Sutherlin said.
Sutherlin says with a Democrat in the White House it may help Edwards bring down more federal dollars from Washington for infrastructure projects. He anticipates the governor will also look to improve broadband internet service throughout the state.
“Louisiana has an interesting opportunity, because we’re mostly a rural state, to access some USDA funds for broadband development,” Sutherlin said.
The LSU Board of Supervisors gives the school’s ag center the green light to begin the process of growing medical marijuana that would be dispensed to eligible Louisiana patients. LSU Ag Center Chancellor Doctor Bill Richardson says they plan to grow medical weed on private property, away from campus, inside a facility that needs to be built.
"The indoor facility allows us to control the whole growing process, the higher security levels and the optimum use of pesticides to make sure that our product is not contaminated since it is being used in a drug environment."
The AgCenter plans to get a third-party investor involved to help pay for start-up costs. Richardson says while there are some concerns, they are excited about the research possibilities that exist.
"A particular drug to treat one five-year-old boy with seizures may not work with the next young man, so the research aspects of this, for the Agricultural Center, the two health sciences centers, and for Pennington. The fact that we can all work on this together is tremendous."
A Shreveport woman is wanted by police for making false accusations that a father molested his 5-month-old daughter. Lt. Bill Davis with the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office says 32-year-old Carrie Rivers was a babysitter for the family of the infant and when her services were no longer needed, she made up this story to make the parents mad. He says this allegation created major problems.
“Made this young child go through some invasive testing and of course the trauma of having the father removed from the home and other things. So we want to find her and we don’t know where she is.”
Davis says authorities believe Rivers is still in the northwest Louisiana area. He says Rivers first confronted the mother of the infant stating that the husband molested her daughter.
“Taking every precaution she could, she went ahead and brought the daughter to the hospital to get checked out and of course that’s when they found out there wasn’t any indication of sexual assault on the child.”
Rivers is also alleged to have taken the mother’s phone. Davis says he doesn’t want an incident like this to stop real victims of sexual assault from coming forward to the police. He says Rivers faces the charges of false swearing; unauthorized use of a moveable; and improper telecommunications.
“These folks who helped her out by giving her a chance to get some employment babysitting, she just basically turned on them and said I want to make them mad and made false accusations. I mean who does that?”
(photo courtesy of Bossier Parish Sheriff's Office)
Governor John Bel Edwards believes the legislature accomplished a lot when it comes to funding important state services but came up short in certain areas. Based on the taxes raised during the two special sessions, Edwards says higher education will not face any cuts, which is good news for students.
“Students in higher education are going to see the smallest increases in tuition in a decade and cuts that would’ve been crippling to our institutions will no longer take effect.”
Edwards says legislators also provided adequate funding for the public-private hospitals that proved care for the poor and uninsured.
“Safety net hospitals that serve communities are going to remain open to serve the needs of the most needy people that we represent.”
Edwards says while the budget is honest and disciplined, he isn’t completely satisfied with the final product. He says state funding for K-12 education will be reduced by 24 million dollars.
“This will limit our ability to reward teachers for educating the leaders of tomorrow, it is not the way that we should do our business if we are truly investing in Louisiana’s future.”
Edwards says he offered a plan to fully fund TOPS, but the scholarship program will only be funded at 70%. He says this is the first time TOPS has ever received a cut.
“Unfortunately, too many members of the legislature would not join me in making sure we could fully fund TOPS.”
Lawmakers failed to raise enough revenue in the special session to fully fund the TOPS scholarship program. However, in the final minutes, an amendment was added that means TOPS students would get all of their tuition paid in the fall semester, but they would have to pay about 60% of it in the spring semester. LSU President F King Alexander doesn’t think this is fair to students or their parents.
“To put students and parents in that situation in the fall, where they’re so worried about the spring, it’s a precarious position to put our families and students in,” Alexander said.
The idea behind this amendment was that more money could come in between now and the start of the spring semester so lawmakers could fund the program more. But Alexander says the state is gambling with our students.
“If we’re just hoping that revenues are going to come in in larger amounts, oil and gas is going to get better for us, I think that’s a risky gamble for us and a risky gamble for our students and families,” Alexander said.
Alexander says if lawmakers cannot fund TOPS by the second semester, it could create serious problems for students who need financial aid to cover the cost.
“Students can’t go out and apply for financial aid in the late fall. They apply for it in the summer for the year, and they just can’t go out and start over and apply to the federal government FAFSA forms for a second semester,” Alexander said.
It’s possible the governor will do a line item veto on the amendment, which would put TOPS back at 70% funded for both semesters.
Just before midnight, the Louisiana legislature gave final approval to a spending bill that calls for the TOPS scholarship program to be fully funded for the fall semester. West Monroe Senator Mike Walsworth says it’s the right thing to do.
"We made a promise to our kids," said Walsworth. "Not to their parents or anybody else, just to our kids. You know that, 'If you do this, this and this in high school, we'll give you tuition free."
But legislators left Baton Rouge without fully funding TOPS. Under the plan approved by lawmakers, TOPS students would only have 42-percent of their tuition covered for the spring semester.
Walsworth says hopefully the state will see higher than anticipated revenues as a result of taxes passed this year and rising oil prices.
"There's some dollars out there that could become, over the next 6 months, that may help fully fund the rest of TOPS that we need," said Walsworth.
Several democrats call the front-loading of TOPS a budget gimmick. Governor John Bel Edwards doesn’t anticipate a higher than expected amount of revenues rolling in, so TOPS students will be left with a big tuition bill for the spring semester.
"It's really problematic," said Edwards. "Especially because normal avenues for student financial assistance are not available at that time of year."
The LSU Board of Supervisors will vote today on whether or not their AgCenter will grow medical marijuana that would be sold to patients who receive a prescription for the drug. Spokesperson for the LSU AgCenter Frankie Gould says the law passed this year that expanded the diseases for which the drug can be prescribed, also outlined two possible growers for the plant.
“What the law did was it gave LSU and Southern AgCenters the first right of refusal to be licensed as sole production facility for medical marijuana,” Gould said.
The new drug will be a pill containing cannabis oil, and it will not be smoke able. Gould says LSU has the ability to grow the plant in their AgCenter. But she says they have a lot to consider before committing.
“There’s other issues about extraction into the oil and pill that is defined by the law, distribution, and those kinds of things,” Gould said.
Gould says at this point they aren’t sure if growing medical marijuana is a worthwhile investment, especially since state funding for colleges has been slashed in recent years. She says it could take $10 to $20 million to produce medical marijuana.
“Somehow this would have to be funded, and with our budget situation, that’s a little difficult right now. So there’s a lot of ifs,” Gould said.
The Louisiana filmed movie, Free State of Jones, starring Matthew McConaughey comes out in theaters today. Executive Director of Celtic Studios Patrick Mulhearn says the movie revolves around a Mississippi farmer who tries to secede from the Confederacy. He says the movie is set during the Civil War and was filmed in 10 different Louisiana parishes.
“Shot it East Feliciana, Evangeline, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, St. Helena, St. Landry and St. Tammany. It was all over the map.”
“Free State of Jones” is just one of several Louisiana shot films that will be shown on the silver screen later this year. The others are Bad Moms, When the Bough Breaks, the Magnificent 7 and Deepwater Horizon. He says unfortunately movie production is down this year, but there is still some activity.
“Business is off by about 80%, I know that a lot of people are excited right now because they’re seeing the production of Wolverine shooting here in Louisiana, both in north Louisiana and in the Orleans Parish area.”
Mulhearn says right now, Georgia is the hot state for movies as about 40 movies are filming in the Peach State. He says Hollywood South in Louisiana has hit a temporary lull and lawmakers can look at making changes to the state’s film incentive program next year, which could help spur movie production again.
“Naturally you should see projects start to gravitate back to Louisiana even though we’ll never be quite what it was or what Atlanta has been able to capture, we’ll see our fair share.”
As expected former LSU star Ben Simmons was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the first overall pick in the NBA Draft. He's the second player from LSU to be taken with the top pick. Shaquille O' Neal was the first in 1992. Simmons says this is a dream come true.
"Anything you want to do you can do honestly," Simmons said. "I've been wanting to do that since I was 5,6,7 and I finally accomplished that."
The 19 year-old averaged 19 points a game in his only season in Baton Rouge. He also averaged a dozen rebounds and five assists a contest. Simmons says he's worked hard to get himself ready for life in the NBA.
"From eating right, to getting my body right for 82 games, to dribbling, to shooting, ball handling, I think everything really needs to be worked on, because you are going to that next level where guys have been in the league for 10-plus years, so they have a lot of experience.
The Pelicans selected the shooter they craved with the sixth overall pick as New Orleans drafted Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield. The All-American averaged 25 points a game last season as he guided the Sooners to the Final Four. Hield made 46-percent of his 3-point shots. Hield says he's thankful to play in New Orleans.
"When I go there, I'll be a high character guy, bring a lot of energy," Hield said. "I'm a scorer, I can shoot the ball a lot, I love to shoot, when I go there I can feel like I can open up the floor for Anthony Davis."
General Manager Dell Demps says Heild is a phenomenal player and the player they targeted.
Grambling State President Willie Larkin turned in his resignation after spending less than a year as the leader of the historically black school in Lincoln Parish. Grambling's Faculty Senate was not pleased with Larkin as they were upset about failing enrollment, fundraising and the loss of the school's nursing program.
The University of Louisiana System Board, which oversees, Grambling, is not commenting on the situation, because it's a personnel matter.
Two Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Deputies were shot while serving a felony warrant in Monroe. Sheriff Jay Russell says the deputies arrived at the home of 26-year-old Rickie Wade, Jr. when they were notified he was in the back of the house. One deputy went through the home and the other went around the outside of the house.
“The deputy that was outside heard in the back of the house a scuffle. As he was going to the rear of the residence, he heard gunshots. As he started to draw his weapon, the suspect encountered him and shot him once also,” Russell said.
Russell says one deputy was shot in the leg, and the other near his face. One of the deputies is out of surgery and reportedly in stable condition. The other had to be airlifted to LSU Heath-Shreveport, where he is still in surgery and listed in stable condition.
Russell says Wade was found just a few blocks from the home a couple hours later. He says the SWAT team pumped OC gas into the house to get the suspect out of the residence without hurting him.
“He climbed into the attic of the residence. More gas was pumped into the attic. He fell out of the attic and at that time was apprehended by our SWAT team members”
Wade has had several warrants in the past few years for everything from burglary and theft to violating a protective order and domestic violence battery. Russell says this so-called scumbag needs to be behind bars.
“He is going to jail, and he will be in jail, hopefully for a while if we can keep him there. He’s someone that does not need to be walking around this community,” Russell said.
Russell says one of the wounded deputies is a 25 year veteran with OPSO, and the other is a 30 year vet. Their names have not been released, pending family notification.
An Abbeville man will spend the rest of his life in prison for fatally shooting a Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s deputy. District Attorney Keith Stutes says 22-year-old Quintylan Richard entered a plea of guilty on the two-year anniversary when he shot Deputy Allen Bares.
“I’m pleased to say we finally brought some resolution to a very, very tragic and difficult circumstance,” Stutes said.
Authorities say Bares was gunned down after confronting Richard and an alleged accomplice about a home they just robbed. Stutes says Richard will not get the death penalty, but he will spend the rest of his life in jail. He says the trial was set for next year, but everyone was ready to put this tragedy to rest.
“The resolution, eliminating the potential of the death penalty, the bringing of the matter to some type of resolution or closures, I think all of those factors entered into the final decision,” Stutes said.
Stutes says Richard did show some remorse for his crime. He says in the courtroom Richard apologized to the family and Bares’ wife.
“I believe they were genuine and well-intended, but certainly the circumstances of the killing itself, they were not an excuse but certainly an attempt, I think, at showing some remorse,” Stutes said.
Bares was 51-years-old and spent 12 years as a deputy with the Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s office.